Archive for Friday, July 16, 2010

Tax choices

Local government should continue to invest to the future, but choices have to be made.

July 16, 2010

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The critical mass of requested tax increases facing residents of Lawrence and Douglas County is hard to ignore.

Even in difficult economic times, it’s not smart to simply hunker down and offer no initiatives for the future, but voters and elected officials are going to have to choose carefully the projects that are important enough to justify tax increases in the next year or two.

The state’s sales tax rose by 1 percent at the beginning of this month on top of an additional 0.55 percent local sales tax increase that went into effect last year for the T transit system and road maintenance projects. Officials of Douglas County and the Lawrence school district both have floated budget proposals that call for property taxes of more than 5 mills. While it’s likely that both entities will approve some kind of tax increase, they probably will — and should — arrive at a more moderate figure.

Lawrence city commissioners proudly decided on Tuesday to keep the city’s property tax levy steady next year, but increases in water, sewer and trash fees still are on the table. That may not be a tax, but it is money out of taxpayers’ pockets. And there’s the matter of a proposed library expansion that would add 2 mills to the city’s levy. Rather than include that amount in their budget, commissioners approved a November ballot on the proposal, which may be a tough sell depending on other tax increases approved between now and then.

The city and county budget proposals include at least modest salary increases for their employees. They may deserve those raises, but many workers in the private sector won’t get any raises this year.

Again, government can’t afford to stand still. If funding an additional psychiatrist for Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center keeps even a few people with mental illness out of the county jail, it might quickly pay for itself. Supporting economic development and promoting this area’s unique history can pay off for local business and tourism.

The city and county can skimp on road maintenance and other capital projects for only so long. If they delay maintenance or fail to set aside money for large projects, they will be playing catch-up, like the city is doing now, using revenue from the new sales tax to address serious street deficiencies.

Almost all of the proposed uses for increased local tax money have merit, but taken together, they are more than taxpayers can handle right now. Taxpayers probably can tolerate modest increases if those funds are directed carefully to initiatives that will have the greatest benefit for the community. We need to keep moving forward, but some projects may have to wait.

Comments

Richard Heckler 4 years, 8 months ago

Let the Voters Decide When Spending Their Tax Dollars! Why ?

Simply because the Chamber,City Commission and Planning Commission cannot seem to make the most practical and prudent decisions.

USD 497 also should let voters decide. No more large spending and tax increases simply because USD 497 can!

Residential growth does not pay for itself because the funding of revenues generated by residential does not pay for the services they require from a municipality.

*Yes or No on light industrial sites – Let The Voters Decide Every November!

Let the voters decide on new retail development. Being more than one million square feet over built is an indication voting taxpayers need to become an active part of the equation annually. Our tax dollars are put at risk without our permission.

Let The Voters Decide every November!

How many is the question?

Which sites are fiscally prudent?

What does the Cost of Community Services Indicate? A Cost of Community Services Study can indicate what growth is paying back and what is not so I'm told.

What do the market impact studies Indicate? 3 0pinions from outside Lawrence circles would be prudent.

Are tax increases to increase the wealth of local developers considered a benefit .....NO!

Growth over the last 20 years has been promoted based on a "boom town economy" model which is unsustainable and leads to higher taxes as we have been discovering.

Why Do YOU Think Lawrence Economic Growth Is Lagging? http://www2.ljworld.com/polls/2007/sep/why_do_you_think_lawrence_growth_lagging/

Richard Heckler 4 years, 8 months ago

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) recently introduced the Local Jobs for America Act in the Senate, a piece of legislation that gives Americans exactly what they want: More jobs and the help they need to train for and secure long-term employment.

A companion bill introduced in the House by Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) in March has more than 160 co-sponsors.

While most support decreased government spending in the long run, a majority of those surveyed do not see it as a top priority today. In fact, they are less concerned about the federal budget deficit than they are about rising health care costs, the lack of jobs with family-sustaining wages, and the affordability of every day expenses like food and gas.

Three out of four people surveyed said they believe policies that would create more jobs with decent wages and benefits for low-income families are important to them personally. Even more people believe those policies would be good for the economy.

Our poll provides strong evidence that the public would support a boldly progressive agenda from the Obama Administration and Congress that would put people back to work and boost our economy.

And it effectively undercuts the "everyone for themselves" individualism espoused by the Tea Party movement.

Fifty-two percent of those surveyed said they believed the government should play a greater role in creating jobs and training programs, helping to trim health care costs, and combating corporate greed.

It is groups like these who stand to benefit most immediately from legislation like the Local Jobs for America Act. The bill would authorize $75 billion in temporary funds over the next two years to prevent planned job cuts and enable communities to hire back critical service workers who have lost their jobs due to tight budgets. It is estimated that the bill would create or save up to a million jobs quickly in both the public and private sectors and help restore access to vital services.

The bill would also fund approximately 50,000 additional private sector on-the-job training positions to enable workers to acquire core job skills and help local businesses increase hiring. Finally, it would provide crucial funding in our communities to hire additional police and firefighters.

By putting people back to work, legislation of this kind strengthens our economy while also providing support for those in need. Although it will require an initial upfront investment, an analysis by the Economic Policy Institute found that the total cost of the legislation would be offset by $39 billion since the bill would help keep taxpayers on payrolls and reduce spending on unemployment benefits and other safety-net programs.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/deepak-bhargava/the-local-jobs-for-americ_b_628145.html

LogicMan 4 years, 8 months ago

"but many workers ... won’t get any raises this year"

Or the last two or three years.

Anyone else notice the increased foreclosure notices in the classified advertisements over the last month or two? Nationally they may be slightly reduced, but Kansas' s economy always lags the national trends somewhat, so we are probably just approaching our peak.

These property tax increases, at the worst possible time for those already and becoming on the edge, will cause even more to lose their homes.

jmadison 4 years, 8 months ago

The government is supposed to work for the citizens rather than the citizens working for the government. Basic services should be funded, but any expansive plans should be avoided in view of the current economic conditions.

Boston_Corbett 4 years, 8 months ago

Merrill: "Let the Voters Decide.."

I vote for Merrill to go away.

grammaddy 4 years, 8 months ago

I vote for everyone else to get off Merrill's back. His posts contain accurate information and links to where that info comes from. He backs his up. Not many on here do that.

4getabouit 4 years, 8 months ago

I agree with Boston Corbett. That makes at least two of us.

Eileen Jones 4 years, 8 months ago

What are the chances this city commission will stop jumping through hoops to charge taxpayers for whatever the latest favorite project of developers is?

Why did the city buy a huge, nearly new, EMPTY office building which they are not going to occupy? What friend of the commission needed to offload that albatross?

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